There’s been a lot of boo-hooing from the right about how the Tea Party was “targeted” by the IRS. The President said he was angry and that it was wrong. A hearing held on May 21, however, revealed that the Treasury Department informed Darrell Issa of these activities last August. No one squawked until the IRS “outed” itself.
Therefore, it is our not-at-all-humble opinion that all this righteous indignation is theater. We also believe that ALL tax-exempt organizations should undergo scrutiny on a regular basis to keep everyone honest and determine whether they should keep the privilege of not being subjected to the taxation that contributes to our society.
There are more than two dozen different kinds of non-profits. We work with some of the more commonly known types. This doesn’t make us experts by any stretch, but to help them with their messaging campaigns, we have to know something about each kind and what they can do:
501(c)(3) – Charitable organizations
Strictly prohibited from engaging in political activity, contributing to political organizations, candidates, or PACs. May not establish or maintain a separate 527 political organization.
501(c)(4) – Social Welfare organizations
Promote the social welfare of an identified “community” for the purposes of civic betterment or social improvement. They are allowed to endorse candidates whose positions reflect their own. They may engage in legislative pursuits that will improve their lot. However, according to the IRS: “promoting social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”
Donations may be received anonymously and in unlimited, unreported quantities. An interesting effect of the Citizens United ruling was that it established one authority that could regulate 501(c)(4)s: the IRS.
Becoming a (c)(4) does not require an IRS application, though; an organization may “self declare” by completing this form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/Form14449.pdf.
501(c)(5) – Labor and Agricultural organizations
This category includes labor unions, which may engage in collective bargaining and working toward better wages, benefits and working conditions.
501(c)(6) – Business leagues
Associations of people engaged in the same professions who work to promote and improve those professions. The category also includes chambers of commerce, boards of trade and football leagues. They may work to advance legislation that is in their common business interests.
527 – Political organizations
Political parties, campaign committees for federal, state, and local candidates for election and PACs subject to tax under IRC §527. They may accept donations that are reported consistent with FEC regulations; they may not engage in lobbying.
Source: IRS http://www.irs.gov/publications/p557/ch04.html and irs.gov/polorgs
Now that we know who can do what, let’s look at a few representative Tea Party events from the last couple of years, keeping in mind that the Tea Party groups are (c)(4) organizations:
May 4, 2013
Ron Paul at Tea Party event in Austin “We have infiltrated the Republican Party and we will convert the Republican Party into defenders of Liberty.” [video]
Tea Party holds “oust Obama” rally [article]
Tea Party rallies before recall election with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Dana Loesch, Sen. Van Wanggaard [video]
Tea Party supports Senators who “did the right thing” [article]
Now recollect what the IRS says: “promoting social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office” and try to reconcile that statement with the above examples. You can’t, because:
Acting like a virus and “infiltrating” the Republican Party might be construed as direct political action
An “oust Obama” rally might be construed as “opposition to any candidate for public office”
A rally in conjunction with a recall election in the presence of elected officials and others might be construed as direct political participation in a campaign AND working on behalf of a candidate
A rally to “stop the destruction of the country” and influence the outcome of an election might be construed as going beyond a mere endorsement
Liberal groups have endured IRS scrutiny, with Greenpeace, the NAACP and a church among those targeted during Bush II. All non-profits should be revisited as a matter of course to maintain their tax-exempt status. It’s been well documented that no Tea Party groups were denied non-profit status. The only Tea Party groups that have had their status revoked hadn’t filed for three or more years.
Complaints may be filed anonymously, and we encourage their use if warranted. In the case of the Tea Party, someone did . This could certainly trigger an inquiry.
We at Poligags don’t buy the story that rogue IRS employees “targeted” the Tea Party. For one thing, we know the political make up of the particular corner of Ohio in which this office is situated . It is about as “red” as could be. The IRS is not known as a bastion of liberalism; if you drew a Venn diagram of local population and IRS staff, you probably couldn’t find two liberals in the intersect. Further, the IRS hierarchy is structured so that “front line” employees could not engage in unilateral action undetected by supervisory personnel . Finally, the increase of 1,000 applications in just the year preceding last November’s election probably negates any argument that IRS staff had leisure time on their hands to go on a “search and destroy” mission for political organizations posing as social welfare groups.
Instead, the Tea Party reminds Poligags of the children’s story in which the mother hen plants, grows, harvests, and grinds the grain needed to then bake bread for her slovenly and ungrateful brood. The Tea Party wants to reap the bounty of America without contributing to the infrastructure, the programs or the cooperative governance that make it all possible. They are individuals who don’t believe in investing in a government that then socialistically “redistributes” tax revenues – particularly for programs to which they object. Instead, the Tea Partiers strive to minimize their exposure to or exempt themselves entirely from taxation.
What’s to stop each and every one of us from incorporating and then self-declaring as a (c)(4)? What would that do to the nation’s tax revenue stream? And who will outraise and outspend the other to buy elections? No. Better to investigate “wrongly” than to sink into that morass.
© 2013 Poligags